‘Being’ a ventricular assist device recipient: A liminal existence

Holly Standing, Tim Rapley, Guy MacGowan, Catherine Exley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)
3 Downloads (Pure)


Ventricular assist devices (VADs) are playing an increasing role in the management of heart failure. VADs are mechanical circulatory devices that support or replace the function of a failing heart. Currently, VADs are only offered in the UK to patients waiting for a heart transplant; however, the use of these devices is likely to increase in the near future. Presently, there is a dearth of literature exploring the day-to-day realities of living with a VAD, which will become increasingly important as the role of VADs is increased. This paper adopts an interpretive phenomenological approach to uncover the experience of ‘Being’ a VAD recipient. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 20 VAD recipients. The overarching theme is that life with a VAD is a liminal existence. This comprised four subthemes: the first examines how the VAD imposes limitations on recipients' lives that can precipitate a loss of identity; the second focuses on temporal disruptions, recipients' sense of time changes from authentic to inauthentic; the third explores how the VAD itself is liminal, it is positioned as temporary rather than as the ‘answer’ to the condition; and finally, we discuss VAD recipients' projections to the future and the possibility of an end to the experience of liminality.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)141-148
JournalSocial Science & Medicine
Early online date19 Aug 2017
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2017


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